The EvilImp™ 'Betrayal'

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Over the last few weeks the remaining dance elements of the Arts Council England/BBC online arts channel, The Space, have finally come online.

'Come Dance With Me' (stop laughing at the back) created by Dance East and 'Spill' created by DanceXchange, both National Dance Agencies, are now online for your viewing pleasure.

The first video series, which is yet to complete its run of six episodes, is a fairly straightforward news magazine style programme. 'Come Dance With Me' is presented by Tom Roden and Pete Shenton of New Art Club as they travel around the country "de-mystifying" dance or some such nonsense.

A typical segment from the show involves the duo interviewing dance makers or participating in community dance class. Interspersed throughout are scripted sequences of interaction between the two. These sequences are, apparently, very funny. We are also treated to sections from individual works created by New Art Club the reason for which has yet to be explained.

The videos do appear to spend a lot of time indulging the presenters and their interactions with each other rather than focusing on actual dance.

Spilled

'Spill', created by DanceXchange, is really nothing more than a video of a live touring production of the same name that takes place in children's playgrounds around the West Midlands of England.

For reasons that never really did make any sense the video was split into ten parts. Each part of the film was released over a period of a few weeks before finally being presented in its entirety.

We would suggest that the video was segmented as part of some misguided marketing idea and ten videos on an application form for funding looks better than one video on an application form for funding.

A couple of short interviews with 'Spill's' choreographer and the dancers are included for good measure.

The Producers

In and of themselves the videos are completely inoffensive, serviceable productions and if you tell us you like them then we'll believe you.

The issue with both 'Come Dance With Me' and 'Spill' comes with the sky-high cost of production claimed by both Dance East and DanceXchange enabled by our old friends at Arts Council England.

'Come Dance With Me' has a budget of just over £86,000, which comes in at more than £14,000 per episode.

When asked about this Dance East told us;

"A great deal of planning has gone into producing this series so [it is] rather inaccurate to say that each episode is costing 14,500."

Additionally, they also declined to release a complete budget breakdown citing confidentiality as the reason.

When pressed for further information on how the money was spent and whether or not there was a public interest in knowing exactly how the money was used they declined to answer. Dance East would also not say if the cost of the films was so high because of the number of staff involved in producing such a simple format.

'Come Dance With Me' cites multiple producers, multiple runners a "director of photography", an editor, sound recordist and studio shooting personnel.

Coincidentally, two professional dancers, Sarah Blanc and Lucy Field, began producing a similar show called 'Inside Dance' some time ago, long before 'Come Dance With Me' came into existence. They do so without any funding or technical support so the production quality is a little fuzzy but nothing that couldn't be fixed with some better equipment and some training. Not £14,000 worth of equipment and training though.

As to Dance East claiming that their show takes a "lot of planning". Calling people on the phone to set up a day of filming and interviews takes, approximately, about an hour and most of that time is spent waiting for the other person to call you back.

As for 'Spill'? According to DanceXchange their film was produced by a "highly experienced professional production company" called Maverick TV.

Opinions on the physical look of a piece of video work are highly subjective but 'Spill' has the appearance of something that was filmed through a lens that nobody could be bothered to clean. Any suggestion that this is caused by online video compression is demonstrably false.

We put several questions to Maverick TV regarding the technical aspects of their production on 'Spill'. They declined to answer however referring them to DanceXchange who also declined to answer.

Article19 wanted to know just how the video was shot, how many people were involved and how long it took to complete.

A very short behind the scenes clip from one of the videos suggests that the "highly experienced professional production company" was using out of date, Sony HVR-Z5E HDV cameras to shoot with.

Neither Maverick nor DanceXchange would confirm this. They also would not say, considering the near £70,000 budget, why more advanced and better quality equipment was not rented for use on the shoot.

Camera's such as the Canon C300, Sony NS700 and The Sony F3 can all be easily rented from dozens of hire shops around the UK. They have far better shooting capabilities than HDV and they all have interchangeable lens systems. A Canon C300 plus a lens kit can be rented for under £500 per day, for a couple of days of shooting and considering the budget, it's a bargain.

Brutus

Leaving the videos themselves aside for the moment the bigger and more fundamental problem we have here is a betrayal of trust. A betrayal of the unwritten covenant we, here in TheLab™, believe should exist between all the people in the arts.

This covenant, were it ever put into writing, would guarantee that the people who work in the arts would not, ever, put the arts at risk by making decisions that were so egregiously and demonstrably bad that the powers that be would have no qualms about crushing them under foot.

Both 'Spill' and 'Come Dance With Me' could have been created, and made a lot better, for less than £10,000 each and that includes equipment rental and all the arduous planning that Dance East claims is needed to make these things happen.

That's £137,000 less than was spent on both of these projects.

Both Dance East and DanceXchange then adopt the fantastically arrogant position of thinking not only are they above answering any questions about their respective projects but they are also not accountable for how they spend other people's money.

Any suggestion that they will be held accountable by ACE is, to be blunt, completely laughable since ACE gave them the money in the first place.

It's the perfect recipe for the right wing/anti arts funding hacks to pile on with their claims that the publicly funded arts sector needs to be completely dismantled. A process that is currently well under way.

This theme of unaccountable indulgence is something replicated throughout almost every project funded as part of The Space. The only thing we need now to nail the coffin shut is some half assed idea featuring a string quartet flying around in helicopters.

Oh wait, they already did that!

  • gruntsforthearts

    Yes it most definitely is in the public interest to know what the budget breakdowns are when its public money! What seems paradoxical, despite the ' cuts ' is that some ACE organizations and projects appear to have even 'more money' now than sense. Austerity could have been such a golden opportunity for change, sigh. I suppose they've just got too used operating with 'unaccountable indulgence' now and appear to want to have their cake, eat it, and certainly never share it with anyone else, God forbid that!

  • Discokid

    Thank you Article 19!
    I was a performer in one of the upcoming dance films for The Space. I have no idea of the budget, however, I was distraught at the pay rate of £10 an hour, for featured dancers, for all rehearsals and long shoot days. I'd like to know the budget breakdown. It most certainly is in the public interest.
    These are not private commisions but publicly funded.
    We the public as well as we the dance and arts community deserve the opportunity to scrutinise the funding decisions of ACE and extravagances such as this. Especially as there is, and will continue to be, less money to go around!

  • evilimp2

    Yes, Dance East and their 'fantastically arrogant position' of 'unaccountability' toward 'many things' let alone the Space! Hurrah that others, including the Imps may have started to notice this too!

  • A change of regime beckons at Dance East as Ms Carriero is leaving for Belgium, perhaps things will change, things always change in the arts, right?

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